Short Reviews | January 26th, 2023

SHORT REVIEWS Our fifth edition of Short Reviews for 2023 finds us transitioning between January and February releases, emphasizing some atmospheric doom metal, some black metal and a couple of popular outliers. I’ve done my best to showcase the most interesting works that I come across while still presenting some decent variety here but choices boil down to what sticks, what inspires or what is worth writing about. These are more easygoing than longform reviews, so relax and think for yourself — If you find something you dig go tell the band on social media and support them with a purchase! If you’d like your music reviewed, read the FAQ and send promos to:

TITLE:Frío [mLP]
RELEASE DATE:January 18th, 2023

This latest mLP from Spanish musician Ángel Chicote‘s (Graveyard of Souls, Mass Burial) atmospheric funeral doom metal project Ornamentos del Miedo holds the listener on the perilous edge of relief, the throes of anguished introspection in draining slither for two ~12 minute pieces. Heavily influenced by Scandinavian funeral death/doom and some manner of earlier melodic/gothic doom metal adjacent we find the artist focusing on the tension built within slow motion doom metal riffs, incorporating ethereal keyboard soar with destitute piano-braced melodies for a sombre funeral march through what I’d read as disenfranchisement, a hardening of the self and a loss of interest in reaction to an increasingly chaotic reality. I particularly enjoyed the almost gothic melo-death/doom feeling of “Vuelven los días” as it pushed through its second half with its dejected lead guitar melody slowly bleeding out. An evocative and substantive enough release.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

TITLE:The Ultimate Grace of God
LABEL(S):Exile on Mainstream
RELEASE DATE:January 27th, 2023

The amount of existential dread that I feel when exposed to the mealy, thoughtless strokes of AI generated album art continues to mount, though I have to admit the image that graces this fifth full-length album from Fürth, Germany-based sludge/doom metal abstractionists Obelyskkh suits the mood well enough. The music itself is a return to the weirding, stoney Melvins-ish maximal atmosludge pump of some of their earlier stuff and this appears to have been the natural result of pulling back to a trio. The title track/first single is just a hint of where the ~72 minute record goes, pushing into psychedelic/ritualistic doom metal territory most often but collapsing into post-hardcore/noise rock inspired benders often enough to keep things unpredictable. I’d generally preferred the shorter pieces here, such as “Black Mother” and “Universal Goddess”, and for no other reason than they’d felt a bit more dense with ideas and heavier riffs. Might take some patience to get your sea legs with this one but once you’re on the ride these folks make a good case to stick around.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

TITLE:Grounded to the Sky
LABEL(S):Czar of Crickets
RELEASE DATE:January 27th, 2023

German progressive rock quartet Giant Sleep certainly impress at a glance, from the masterful cover art via Kuba Sokólski Illustration to the immediately warm, present atmosphere of ‘Grounded to the Sky‘ as opener “Silent Field” pulses in. Everything about their gig is inviting and at least somewhat serious in its self-examined tone but as the patient listener will soon find this’ll have to be one of those “can’t quite put my finger on it” kind of bands who blend uncertain ratios of many sub-genres: Post-rock, stoner/doom metal, heavy metal, and classic progressive rock influences unto a general heavy rock sound. It isn’t an easy “sell” and it’ll take a moment to pick up on the different approaches the vocalist takes as Thomas Rosenmarkel‘s (ex-Destruction, Ephemera’s Party) bluesy 90’s hard rock cadence evolves from song to song. The title track is a fine example of what I’d consider the early 80’s progressive rock influenced side of the band colliding with their various other influences, it all feels like a righteous struggle toward the point ’til some odd alt-rock inflections (“yea-yuh, yeah-yuh“) pull me out of the moment. Elsewhere these folks tend to find their hook, work up a bluesy ride, or manage some redeeming point of interest on the way there. It is a fine effort and I appreciate the intergenerational headspace covered herein as a band able to cross from Peter Gabriel to Candlebox and even a bit of ‘Am Universum‘-era Amorphis but I’d not found the full listen all that gripping beyond the first 2-3 pieces.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10.

TITLE:Faded Anchors of the Past
LABEL(S):Black Lion Records
RELEASE DATE:January 27th, 2023

Sorrowful Land is a melodic death/doom metal project from Kharkiv, Ukraine-based musician Maksym Molodtsov who notably deploys guest vocalists (by way of Doomed, Within the Fall, Soliloquium, etc.) throughout the first half of this third full-length album. His style of composition is what I’d consider classic second generation (read: 1998-2005) melodic death/doom metal focused on depressive metaphor, cold self-examination and lead-driven melodies meant to accentuate slow atmospheric pieces which trade in a 70/30 ratio of harsh/clean vocals. A symphonic element rests on the horizon for a forlorn melodramatic effect yet the guitar tones/riffs rest in equitant distance as background shaping beyond their growling distortion for the sake of emphasizing the vocal performances. As a general fan of depressed, distraught and melodramatic extreme metal the feeling of these songs vacillated between damning solitude and hopeful sub-genre apropos movements wherein the only piece that didn’t do much for me in terms of tuneful continuity was “Small Lost Moments”. Per sub-genre expectations ‘Faded Anchors of the Past‘ otherwise presents a fine example of a clean, crisp yet emotionally effective melodic death/doom for folks who don’t want the experience to go full-on goth or orchestral, but still feature a bit of both in the periphery. I was admittedly brutally burnt out on this type of thing in the mid-2000’s, it doesn’t click with me as often these days, but I can still appreciate a capable example which die-hard fans should enjoy.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10.

TITLE:Kronieken Uit de Nevel
LABEL(S):Void Wanderer Productions,
War Productions
RELEASE DATE:January 27th, 2023

Schavot is a mid-second wave Norwegian black metal influenced solo project from Netherlands-based musician Floris whom you should know from Asgrauw and Meslamtaea if you are at all in tune with Dutch black metal circles. ‘Kronieken uit de nevel‘ (“Chronicles from the Fog”) is the second full-length from them since forming in 2021 and there’ll be no surprises in terms of intent as his sound still reflects a somewhat atmospheric take on the wrath of Scandinavian black metal. What separates influence from the final product is more-or-less guitar techniques used, most of which aren’t uniformly throwback (see: intro to “Niet alleen de avond valt”) and avoid the tuneful “heavy metal” shortcuts of 90’s guitar work for a loftier affect. As such we get an album which hums with a sort of phantom limb memory for the classics, allowing their sound its own characterization with a bit of Emperor inspired bluster here and there. [Note: Though it does not bear any weight on my appreciation of Schavot‘s music, the 96kbps mp3 files sent for consideration were distorted/compressed to the point that I can’t give this album a review score beyond suggesting I did in fact enjoy what I could hear. Give lesser weight to my thoughts than you normally might (ha!) and preview it on Bandcamp for yourself.]

TITLE:…Lima Hell! [Reissue]
LABEL(S):Werewolf Records
RELEASE DATE:February 3rd, 2023

This is a compilation of Peruvian “deathcore” (read: ancient nuclear black death/thrash) warcult Saram‘s most vital releases per their activity between 1998-2007 as a formative band from folks we know by way of Anal Vomit, Evil Damn, Goat Semen and Old Sacrifice. Originally released on CD back in 2012 as a compilation folks were selling this thing for wild amounts on Discogs for a while so it is great to get a proper vinyl version which collects the insane ‘Metal Mayhem Genocide‘ cassette, the ‘Embrujo‘ seven inch and a few unreleased songs. The 2004 tape is the big deal here for my own taste due to vocalist Neyra being a complete maniac on it and the cruelly beaten Sarcofago worship of their style ruling otherwise. The whole compilation has a ragged late 80’s black metal feeling to it which comes highly recommended on my end.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

TITLE:Night People
LABEL(S):Rotten to the Core,
To Live A Lie
RELEASE DATE:February 3rd, 2023

We haven’t heard from Seattle, Washington-based crew Endorphins Lost since 2019 or so when their second full-length hit so it has been refreshing to cut back into their blend of hardcore punk, powerviolence, and some light late 90’s-era Relapse sized sludge-grind. At ~20 minutes and fourteen songs they’re still cutting right to the point within each song, hitting a big groove or a few maniac riffs and generally impressing with their tightly wound rhythmic focus. Tons of enraged energy, beyond solid production values, and a consistently over the top attack at all times makes this one even bigger than their last few releases. I particularly love the congested physical attacks of the shortest pieces (“Remington Right”, “Carcano ’63”) which do a lot of work to keep all guns blazing. ‘Night People‘ continues their lyrical focus on the psychology of social inequality, the mass cruelty that comes from social engineering which exploits human nature. Though this all applies to battlefield Seattle these last five years they’ve used historical examples of the system being fucked up, of people being willfully herded into unthinkable acts, to make their larger talking point. It all blazes past pretty quick and certainly calls for a lyric sheet if you’re inclined. FFO: Capitalist Casualties, Dropdead, Gasp.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

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